(See the other posts in this series here)
Today’s post is my monthly Germany vs the US comparison. I keep a running list in my phone of things to share with you, and it keeps growning!
All Things H2O
It’s funny that something as basic as water is so different over here. German water is HARD! I know some of you live in places where the water is hard, so some of this will come as no surprise to you, but it’s been quite an education for me.
The tap water in Germany is quite safe to drink, although most Germans (around 70%) prefer to drink carbonated mineral water. In our building, our neighbors store cases upon cases of it in the kellar (cellar). I tend to think that hard water is a good chance to get the calcium and magnesium that is lacking in most modern diets, and we use our Berkey water filter on all of our water anyway, so we drink it and find it completely tasteless.
This is the first place I’ve lived where we have to put salt in the dishwasher; it’s used to soften the water and keep lime (kalk) from streaking on the dried dishes. If you don’t add salt, the lime buildup can actually damage the pipes over time.
Speaking of which, we have anti-lime cleaning products that we have to use throughout our apartment–in the toilet, in the washing machine, and on the glass shower doors (and heaven forbid if we don’t squeegee after we shower because those water spots are a killer).
Another thing that I’ve noticed is that the water tends to dry my skin out more, especially in the winter, so I have to moisturize more (and shower less!). I’ve also started using German brands of shampoo and conditioner as they’re formulated for the hard water and don’t leave my hair so dry.
We love mineralwasser, too, but instead of buying and returning bottles, we’ve just been using our Soda Stream that we brought from home. Most grocery stores here sell the gasflasche replacements and they’re less expensive than in the States.
Ice is Nice
Moving on to the solid form of water, let’s talk about ice. I think most people know that ice is just not a thing over here, and it almost seems like Germans dislike cold beverages in general. I’ve heard two explanations for this: first, that beverages like beer have a better taste when they’re not served ice-cold, and second, that cold drinks are believed to not be good for your stomach (my landlady told me this). I know we have a few German readers, so please let me know if I’m correct.
Since the German fridge in our apartment doesn’t have a freezer, and the small US one that the base loaned to us has a very, very small freezer, we bought a countertop ice maker that has made my life happier overall, although I have noticed that I use less ice than I used to.
I think the coffee is just better here. It tends to be stronger, in my opinion, so I’ve gone from two large cups in the morning to one small (8 oz) one instead.
Whole beans are the norm, with most stores having a grinder if you have a French press or drip-style coffee maker, although most people I’ve seen have fully automatic ones like ours where you just pour the beans into the top:
Single cup brewing systems (like Keurigs) are just not a thing over here, probably because they are so conscious of the amount of trash and recycling they generate. My Keurig is obviously 110v so it’s stored down in the kellar until we return to the States.
I also don’t see as many people drinking coffee on the go here. Yes, it happens, but the Germans seem to keep a less frantic pace and enjoy their food and drink at a table more often than not. I like that!
We’ve been here long enough that I’ve been in quite a few other homes and apartments, and carpet is not a thing at all over here, which I love because carpet gets so nasty.
Beautiful hardwood floors are the standard (with tile in the wet rooms) and I do love the beauty they add to every room. The German habit is to remove shoes just outside or right inside the door and put on house slippers. I am still training my family to do this, but I appreciate how the floors stay cleaner.
Another stereotype that seems to be true so far is that most Germans keep things spic and span, inside and out. Even in the dead of winter, our neighbors have a perfectly manicured garden area. I think the leaves are smart to fall on just our side of the fence!
Even the air is clean in German apartments; we have to lüften several times a day. This means we turn off the radiators, open up all the windows, and let stale air out and fresh air in. This makes sure that the moist air generated by the radiators doesn’t start mold growing and it also freezes any lurking Covid (seriously, there are signs on the highways reminding us to lüften as part of our
15 365 days to flatten the curve). Having lived in several old houses where the windows were painted shut, I love being able to air the house out to remove cooking and pet odors.
I’m sure there will be another installment about ventilation come warmer weather, since air conditioning is also not a thing over here, so stay tuned, and thanks for stopping by!
(See the other posts in this series here)
I love these posts 🙂 My dad was German, and we spent a lot of time there growing up. Once, during a visit when I was college aged, I had a flu like virus while we were staying with family. All I wanted was an ice cold sprite… and there was no ice to be had. Like you said, the freezers are not really built for ice. I ran a fever for days and was dying for a cold drink!
Oh, I can just imagine how that must have felt! I run the icemaker every day and then keep a gallon-sized ziploc in the freezer so we can have it at the ready. I know I use less ice over here since it’s not so readily available, but there’s no way I can go without.
Thank you for letting me know that you like the series because I really enjoy writing it!
I love these post comparing Germany to the US. It is just fascinating to me. I had a German grandmother and my mom must have kept some traditions, because we always took our shoes off at the door. I love the idea about airing the house. How would the heating add moisture? Our furnace dries everything out. Are the radiators steam heat?
I’m so glad you enjoy the posts because I really love writing them! German houses don’t have any ductwork for an air exchange like we have in the States, plus they’re usually built with thick concrete walls. If we didn’t open the windows there would be no air exchange at all. The radiators have hot water running through them, which is probably why the water that comes out of our faucets is scalding hot!So nice that you had a German Oma. 🙂
Linda Johnston says
I remember the upset when there was no salt in the commissary! We used the radiator hanging water ceramic vessels filled with water for moisture. We lived in houses with yards which maybe made a differne with the fresh air. We also bought a case of mineral water every month after trying different types to find the one we liked. Do they still sell Jacobs?
Hmm, I haven’t seen Jacobs yet but will look when I’m at the Getrankemarkt this weekend. Everyone has their favorite brand, that’s for sure! They love to talk about the different health benefits of one spring vs. another.
We have a garden area down below but I think the biggest issues with our house is that it’s concrete (like so many German homes) so if we don’t lüften there’s absolutely no air exchange. My family isn’t a fan of it during the winter, but I love it (can you tell I’ve got German ancestry?!).Take care, Linda–Christy
I really like these comparison stories. It’s so interesting to read about the differences.
I was really interested in the salt in the dishwasher. How much do you use, where does it go in dishwasher and is it a special kind. We have very hard water here and I have been putting vinegar in the rinse. And as a fabric softener in the washer. Always have to use liquids too.
Hi, Sue–So sorry for the delay! The dishwasher salt is sold in the same section as the soap and rinse aids; to me it looks like ice cream salt or rock salt. There’s a special dispenser for it in the bottom of the dishwasher. I’m not sure if you could just add some to the bottom to see if it helps? LemiShine is really good; you might want to give that a try, too.
Take care, Christy
When my children were both very young we were transferred to Japan. They also take their shoes off before entering the home. Both kids were acclimated to this habit and I encouraged it throughout their lives. It really does keep the house so much cleaner (and I think healthier). We were never stationed in Germany but, I hope you enjoy your tour there as much as we enjoyed our times overseas. It is a great cultural experience.
Thanks so much, Robin. We’ll enjoy it better if lockdown ends, but we’re making the best of it for now.Hope you are well!
This brings back such great and happy memories!! I’m glad you’re having a good time and embracing it all!! Shand 🙂
It was a horrible winter, to be honest. Hard lockdown from early November until just a few weeks ago. All stores were closed (except for grocery and apotheke) and restaurants were only open for carryout. All the Christmas and Easter markets were canceled and you couldn’t travel outside of your state. It was rough–so that makes these last few weeks all the more sweet. Our youngest just graduated from high school and she and I are flying back at the end of the month, but she’s going to get to Paris with a friend before we go. :)Hope you are well!